“We want to continue to move the needle in a forward way and, very importantly, on the field of competition.” – Mike Thomas
Those words will resonate with Illinois football fans. Tim Beckman, entering his third season at the helm of the Fighting Illini squad, knows what this season means to him, to his future as a coach, and to the future of the team. The records may not show it, but fans are looking at what is going on between January and August, and they see things on the upswing.
Recruiting is gaining momentum. Guys are beginning to have the desire to stay in state. Beckman is finding the right guys to help coach, and there was a large improvement last season compared to Beckman’s first season.
With things looking better than two years ago, what does that mean for Tim Beckman’s future? How hot of a seat is he on in Champaign this season? These questions are hard to answer honestly.
What do fans want to see? Wins, plain and simple. The fans want to watch a game in December or January. Fans want to have a reason to fill the stands in fifteen degree weather. (For a segue, there is no reason why our stadium should be as empty as it has been in recent memory, but I digress…).
When people say that things are looking better than Coach Beckman’s first year, they are fully aware that going from two to four wins is not that much fun, simply because you are still losing quite a few games. However, when you look at the numbers, there is promise.
For instance, in 2013, the Illini did not get beat as badly in most of their games. It is a silver lining, and a small one at that, but it is something. If you look at how the team produced on the field in 2012 versus 2013, you can see that Beckman is getting his team to play with much better chemistry, with passion, and with intelligence. That says a lot, as 2012 at times was very hard to watch.
People do not give Beckman as much credit as he deserves for the turnaround in 2013. 2012 was a mess, but Coach is getting this thing turned around.
If you want to talk about his “hot seat” in 2014, you can honestly expect a couple things: if he starts off with anything less than a 3-1 record, people will start talking; if Beckman has any more mental errors, i.e. The Red Man Apocalypse, people will definitely start talking.
This season and Beckman’s seat will all come down to how he handles adversity. This team has the ability to go 3-1 at minimum with a pretty favorable non conference schedule. The Big Ten schedule, while not a cakewalk, shows me four wins, getting the Illini in to a bowl game for the first time since 2011. It may not be a January Bowl Game, but if Becks wins six or seven games and garners a bowl berth, he will, and should, be back in 2015.
If, and that is a big if, Beckman gets to four or five wins and misses out on bowl play, it will likely be a toss up in regards to his future. Some fans, like me, want to see him there a couple more years unless he takes a big step back, to keep the familiarity of the system for the student athletes.
That said, if the team lays an egg this upcoming season, all bets are off and I can see anything happening, but that is unlikely. This team will be better than most expect them to be, and the division is winnable if the cards fall the right way.
Maybe my blind optimism as a fan clouds my judgment, but this team will get seven wins minimum in 2014. (That’s right, Dad. Seven wins. It’s in print now.)
So how hot is Beckman’s seat? It is warm right now. It is ninety degrees today. Every seat in Illinois is hot. Support your coach, fans. Things are showing signs of life. Trust your coaches. It is a bit more fun than being negative all the time. As of today, we have the same record as Alabama and Florida State, so there are reasons to smile.